9/3/2013 9:50:00 AM Walker wins Coconino County Rural Teacher of Year award Williams High School history teacher Heather Walker in running for statewide award
Williams High School history teacher Heather Walker discusses current events with her students in a U.S. history class. Walker is the Arizona Rural Schools Association 2013 Coconino County Rural Teacher of the Year. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Heather Walker discusses an assignment with a student. Ryan Williams/WGCN
The Arizona Rural Schools Association (ARSA) recently selected Williams High School (WHS) history teacher Heather Walker as its 2013 Coconino County Rural Teacher of the Year.
Walker, who teaches government/economics, U.S. history, and college U.S. history, called the award a huge honor.
"It's awesome but it's humbling at the same time," she said. "Teaching is oftentimes a thankless job. It's very rewarding to be recognized for what you do."
WHS Principal Tristan Heisley nominated Walker for the award.
"I went through all of my teachers and narrowed it down to a couple, but I thought Heather is the most dynamic of all of our teachers I think in terms of switching up the lesson plans and keeping the kids interested," he said.
Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rachel Savage agreed, saying she was impressed when she observed an activity in Walker's classroom recently.
"The coolest thing about it is she was really just facilitating the lesson. The students were doing all of it, and that takes tremendous organization and planning and skill building with the students to get them to that level," Savage said. "She is so deserving, she's really talented."
Bill Blong, executive director of ARSA, said a committee chose the county winners after considering the applicants' teaching experience, teaching philosophy, instructional methods, leadership qualities and classroom innovations.
Besides Walker's regular teaching duties, she has spoken at national conferences, coordinated the National History Day competition and coaches the volleyball team.
Walker has been teaching for eight years, and has taught in Williams for three years.
"I've always looked up to veteran teachers and teachers with so much more experience, so it's really exciting that a younger teacher would be recognized for this because I feel like I have a long way to go to become the level of teacher that I see in veteran teachers," Walker said.
However, Heisley said Walker has already reached that level.
"She's already one of the leaders of the school on our staff," Heisley said. "Other teachers do look up to her."
Besides being an honor for herself, Walker said the award is also important for her students.
"When I first got here there was this sense that the kids in Flagstaff get so much more than us," Walker said. "The kids should know that the quality of the teachers they're getting here is the same."
The award puts Walker in the running to become the ARSA's 2013 Teacher of the Year. ARSA will announce the winner Sept. 21. That winner will represent Arizona in the National Rural Education Association Teacher of the Year program.